The Alien Tort Statute, Federalism, and the Next Wave of International Law Litigation

49 Pages Posted: 21 Apr 2011 Last revised: 28 Jan 2013

See all articles by Donald Earl Childress III

Donald Earl Childress III

Pepperdine University - Rick J. Caruso School of Law


This Article examines the question of what role international law should play in domestic courts through the lens of the Alien Tort Statute ("ATS") and points to the next battlegrounds for transnational litigation under state and foreign law. The Article provides clarity as to why federal appellate courts have limited ATS cases. In light of federal retrenchment, this Article uniquely explores the potential for a new wave of international law litigation under state and foreign law and the potential for that wave to reach state courts. The Article analyzes forthcoming issues of federalism, choice of law, preemption, and due process that will arise as part of the next wave of international law litigation. After critically evaluating these areas, the Article provides a scholarly agenda for further study related to the question of international law in domestic courts. The Article seeks to apply the rich academic literature produced to date by such eminent scholars as Curtis Bradley, Jack Goldsmith, Harold Koh, and others to this new wave of transnational litigation. In so doing, it creates a new legal and normative framework for further studies regarding the role of international law in U.S. courts. The Article concludes by proposing a congressional fix that uses the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 as a model for alleviating federalism concerns that exist when international law cases are brought in domestic courts.

Keywords: public international law, Alien Tort Statute, federalism, choice of law, conflict of laws, private international law

JEL Classification: K10, K33, K41

Suggested Citation

Childress III, Donald Earl, The Alien Tort Statute, Federalism, and the Next Wave of International Law Litigation. Georgetown Law Journal, Vol. 100, 2012, Pepperdine University Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2011/9, Available at SSRN:

Donald Earl Childress III (Contact Author)

Pepperdine University - Rick J. Caruso School of Law ( email )

24255 Pacific Coast Highway
Malibu, CA 90263
United States
310-506-4807 (Phone)


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